CARL LAWSON (PHOTO BY JASON CALDWELL)

StatTiger Column: Previewing Auburn's Sugar Bowl Matchup Vs. Oklahoma

Stuart Carter crunches the numbers to predict what will happen when the Auburn football Tigers close their season vs. Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl.

Defensive end Carl Lawson (above) is Auburn's top pass rusher.

No. 14 Auburn (8-4) vs. No. 7 Oklahoma (10-2-0)

Series Record: Oklahoma leads 1-0

Last Meeting: (1972) Oklahoma 40-22

About the Teams:

•Coach Bob Stoops of Oklahoma is 189-48-0 as a collegiate head coach. Under Stoops the Sooners have won 10 conference titles and one national championship. Gus Malzahn is 44-20 all-time and 35-17 at Auburn

•The last time out Oklahoma defeated Oklahoma State, 38-20, and Auburn was defeated by Alabama, 30-12.

•Oklahoma under Stoops is 8-9 in bowl games and 6-3 in all games against teams from the Southeastern Conference.

•Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield is the nation’s top rated quarterback with an efficiency rating of 197.7. He has thrown for 3,669 yards and 38 touchdown passes this season.

•Joe Mixon leads the Sooners in rushing with 1,183 yards at 7.0 per attempt. Oklahoma possesses two dangerous running backs, including Samaje Perine, who has totaled 974 yards on the ground in nine games.

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Joe Mixon is a big-play threat as a runner and receiver for the Sooners.

•Wide receiver Dede Westbrook was a Heisman finalist with 74 receptions for 1,465 yards and 16 touchdowns. Mixon is a major threat out of the backfield with 32 receptions for 449 yards and five touchdowns.

•Senior linebacker Jordan Evans leads Oklahoma with 89 tackles on the season, including nine for loss. Evans along with fellow linebacker Ogbonnia Okoronkwo have combined for 19.5 tackles for loss, including 11.5 sacks.

•Sean White should be close to 100 percent, having missed the last two regular season games due to an injury. The Auburn quarterback is No. 32 nationally in pass efficiency with nine touchdown passes and only three interceptions. Tony Stevens leads Auburn’s receivers with 29 catches for 466 yards.

•Kamryn Pettway is currently No. 12 nationally with 124.8 yards rushing per game. The All-Southeastern Conference running back has 1,123 yards rushing in nine games. Kerryon Johnson has 862 yards rushing and 11 rushing touchdowns for the Tigers.

•Safety Tray Matthews leads Auburn in tackles with 73 followed by Tre Williams with 63. Carl Lawson leads the Tigers in tackles for loss with 12.5 and Montravius Adams has 8.5 stops behind the line.

•Oklahoma faced five Top 25 run offenses this season, allowing an average of 236.2 yards rushing and 31 points per game.

How They Match Up...

•Auburn is No. 6 nationally in rushing and will face an Oklahoma defense ranked No. 54 nationally against the run.

•Auburn will be the third Top 20 defense Oklahoma has faced this season. During their two previous meetings the Sooners were held to 23 and 24 points, both losses. 

•Auburn’s No. 16 pass efficiency defense will face Oklahoma's No. 1 ranked pass efficiency offense.

•Auburn is No. 38 nationally in turnover margin, facing a Oklahoma team ranked No. 73.

•Oklahoma is +23 in plays of 20 yards or more, generating 87 on offense while surrendering 64 on defense. Auburn is +15 on the season with 62 on offense and 47 allowed on defense.

•Scoring margins and averages from Power-5 games only, project a one point Oklahoma victory, 28-27.

Keys to Victory...

•Establishing the run will be essential for the Tigers. Malzahn's offense at Auburn averages 34.4 points per game against Power-5 competition when the Tigers rush for at least 200 yards. The Tigers average 21.1 points per game when held under 200 yards rushing. Auburn is 10-3 in bowl games with at least 200 yards rushing.

•Defending the run will vital as Auburn is 13-24 in games the Tigers allowed at least 200 yards rushing during the past 10 seasons. Making the Sooners one-dimensional should limit Oklahoma’s scoring opportunities.

•Of the 18 plays of 30 yards or more allowed by the Auburn defense (No. 7 nationally), 14 have come through the air. Oklahoma is No. 5 nationally with 45 plays of 30 yards or more this season. Auburn must make the Sooners work for every yard they gain.

•During Auburn’s last four games the Tigers have converted only 27 percent of their third downs. Oklahoma is No. 99 nationally in third down defense, an area Auburn needs to exploit.

•Early success on offense will be another key. Under Malzahn's offense Auburn is 35-5 in games the Tigers score 10 points or more in the first quarter and 30-22 when they don’t.

What to Watch...

•Oklahoma is No. 85 nationally allowing 5.0 yards per rush on first down. This season against six FBS opponents that allowed more than 4.5 yards per rush on first down, Auburn averaged 332 yards rushing and 38 points per game.

•The Sooners will be the highest ranked offense Auburn has faced this season. During four games against Top 30 ranked offenses this season the Tigers surrendered an average of 26.7 points per game.

•During the past 10 years Auburn is 28-1 in games the opponent was held to under 140 yards rushing and attempted at least 35 passes. 

•Oklahoma is No. 73 in punt return defense and No. 94 in kick return defense. The kicking game could create opportunities for Auburn on special teams.

•Malzahn’s offense in bowl games (10) has averaged 453 yards and 33 points per game, which includes 447 yards and 33 points at Auburn.

•The Oklahoma defense has held its Power-5 opponents to 10 percent below their rushing average. The Sooners held their Top 5 rushing opponents to three percent below their rushing average. These averages project Auburn to rush for 250-270 yards.

Final Word...

Auburn closes the season with an exciting opponent in a historical venue. Auburn and Oklahoma have only played one another on one occasion with Oklahoma defeating the Tigers 40-22 in the 1972 Sugar Bowl. It has been a roller coaster ride for the Tigers this season and a victory over the No. 7 Sooners would be a great ending to the 2016 season and a kick-start for 2017.

Offensively, Auburn will be the healthiest it has been since entering the Mississippi State game. Facing an Oklahoma team ranked No. 89 in total defense and No. 74 in scoring defense should be encouraging for the Auburn offense. The Sooners have the better offense and AU has the better defense, which makes for a very intriguing game. With an artificial surface and no weather elements to affect the game, this matchup could turn into a track meet.

Oklahoma is the Big XII champion with a roster of talented players, especially on the offensive side of the football. The Sooners are a talented bunch, but no more talented than four or five teams Auburn has faced this season. During Oklahoma’s last four recruiting classes, the Sooners signed 37.2 percent 4-5 star talent, according to Scout.com. Auburn during the same period signed 57.4 percent.

DESHAUN DAVIS (PHOTO BY JASON CALDWELL)

Redshirt sophomore linebacker DeShaun Davis is a key member of Auburn's defense.

The Oklahoma offense will be a major challenge for the Auburn defense, combining the ability of Chad Kelly of Ole Miss in its passing game and the talent of Texas A&M’s running backs and wide receivers. Auburn will be tested by an offense held under 34 points only two times this season. Since their last defeat, Oklahoma has scored nearly 48 points per game during a nine-game winning streak. 

Though Oklahoma has been a juggernaut on offense its defense has allowed 452 yards and 29 points per game during the Sooner winning streak. During Auburn’s six-game winning streak the offense averaged 513 yards and 39 points per game before the injuries began to mount.

When healthy Auburn is perhaps the best offensive team Oklahoma will face this season and certainly the best run offense the Sooners have faced this year. Other than Ohio State, Auburn is the best defense Oklahoma has faced this season, making Auburn the most complete opponent the Sooners have faced.

Auburn built its 8-4 record around the sixth toughest schedule this season and Oklahoma’s 10-2 record came against the No. 33 rated schedule. Oklahoma is the favored team, but this game matches up well for the Tigers.

The extra time off during bowl preparation tends to favor the defenses with the additional time to study the opposing offense. Auburn’s defense is No. 29 in tackles for loss while Oklahoma is No. 97. Auburn has the edge up front on both sides of the football, which should bode well for the more physical Tigers.

The only common opponent for the two teams was Louisiana-Monroe, which lost to Oklahoma by 42 points and to Auburn by 51. If Auburn limits Oklahoma's big play ability, establishes the run and takes care of the football, the Tigers should be in good shape to win the Sugar Bowl. Once again Auburn’s players seem to be focused on the challenge ahead, just as they have been all season. Malzahn’s offense at Auburn has never been held under 400 yards during six bowl appearances and should have a high probability of making it seven consecutive games. Auburn 34, Oklahoma 30

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